I have stood by and watched helplessly for years while the system has hammered my brother into a crooked and hopeless shell of a man because his devastating injuries were not visible to the naked eye. He has been told he is too young, too male, too educated to receive even the rudimentary assistance or healthcare for the last 17 years.
The nature of his injury (a closed head trauma) makes it impossible to cope with pursuing his case with any consistency. He is angry, afraid, hurt and feels betrayed by a government that can spend billions of dollars fighting a war we have no business concerning ourselves with in the first place, but that can't recognize the beautiful people suffering right or left here in our own back yard. He has lived in his truck, worked meaningless, petty jobs that caused more damage than good, trying to keep body and soul together.
My brother stays with me, now, in a small house. He has a room in the cottage out back; no heat, no water and only an extension cord run from the house for electricity. We've boarded up the windows to make it a little more secure until I can afford to do something more effective. My dining room is converted to another sleeping room where my dear friend stays, another victim of a closed head trauma, unable to work due to uncontrollable, unpredictable seizures. Also too male, too young, too white, too intelligent to be considered a viable candidate for public assistance. The injury is not obvious enough on the surface.
On a good day, we get along great. We even laugh. But the good days are fewer and further between and the winter makes them even shorter. The cold locks up joints, the pain becomes unbearable, and without medication, food and heat, quality of life has become a terrible joke, one in which my loved ones are a sad, forgotten punch line.
I work 40 hours a week. On my days "off," I usually go from sunup to sundown taking care of business, trying to get these guys to appointments, cleaning up legal issues that their physical disabilities have helped create, trying to maintain hope.
I'm not Mother Teresa. I just see a need that nobody else seems to care about and I'm doing my best to help. It's killing me. I'm behind on bills. I'm exhausted. Nobody out there cares that there are so many similar stories.
I am not a sexist or a racist. I love my country. I am a veteran of the Gulf War Era, myself. But I hate the government that can so readily turn its back on loyal citizens, former taxpayers and truly worthwhile souls. I fear what will become of us, what will become of me. Every month I get a little farther behind trying to keep us afloat, but without (them) being officially "disabled," I have no acclaim for assistance either. I will continue to act as an advocate for these wonderful gentlemen. I will continue to provide a home for as long as I can, but every week I meet others I can't help, others whose stories are the same -- falling through the cracks -- because they are too poor, too broken, too frustrated, to hobbled by circumstance to make it work. They are an embarrassment to society so they simply cease to be recognized.
My brother is dying. I watch him deteriorate a little more every day. His heart is failing -- a congenital defect. His lungs are crystallized and he can barely breathe. His bones are so arthritic they hardly hold him upright in a chair. His eyes are dim. His motor skills fail him. All he wants is relief from the pain, to die peacefully. His mind, still sharp as it ever was, reeling with ideas that will never come to fruition.
We have filed for Social Security Disability -- one more time. I pray, if there is a God -- which I am really starting to doubt -- please don't abandon us in this hour of need, make it work this time, don't let him fall through the cracks, again. Please bring him some relief. Let him die in peace, and not in the condemned shack in the back yard. Please.
The author, a concerned advocate who lives in a small town near Colorado Springs, requested anonymity to preserve the dignity of the men involved.